Will Bears fans give Roy Williams a chance to succeed?
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org September 9, 2011 11:46AM
Much will be expected of Bears newcomer Roy Williams this season, but how patient will fans be with Williams' progress?
Updated: September 9, 2011 4:57PM
Will Chicago give Roy Williams a chance to breathe Sunday?
The former Pro Bowl wide receiver will come into the Bears’ season opener against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field with at least four or five strikes against him: He’s the teacher’s pet, having supplanted Johnny Knox as the starting split end — ostensibly just because Mike Martz likes him; He had two receptions in the preseason; He didn’t own up to a drop against the Titans; Knox has been better in the preseason; and Williams hasn’t been close to the Pro Bowl since 2006.
Nobody’s going to feel sorry for an NFL wide receiver with a healthy ego and a dwindling resume. But will anybody at least have an appreciation for the spot he’s in? After being anointed the Bears’ No. 1 receiver the first week of August, he’s had five weeks to get re-acclimated with an offense that Devin Hester and Knox are still getting used to after 16 months and 18 games playing in it.
Sox fans gave Adam Dunn two months. Will Bears fans give Williams two games?
The season hasn’t even started and you can just feel that Williams has no margin for error. The anticipation of him living up to the reputation of a petulant, prima donna NFL wide receiver is palpable. Inside Halas Hall, only Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo have more people rooting for them to fail.
I’m not the president of the Roy Williams fan club — even if one exists, it’s not based in Chicago, that’s for sure. But there’s so much anticipation for this season that, with a sure thing in Knox on the sidelines, it seems like the fans aren’t going to even give Williams a chance.
And while the Bears make the decision who plays and who doesn’t, let’s not ignore the fact that the public’s reception and reaction can have an impact — especially with a high-profile player under the microscope.
We’ve seen it before: Player struggles. Fans boo. Player tries too hard and fails more. Fans boo more. Player tires of the media scrutiny, shuts down and before you know it, it’s over.
I think Williams deserves more of a chance than he’s getting from the fans and media because I think he’s trying to fit in. He gets Chicago. He gets the Bears. He gets Bears fans. He botched the explanation of his drop against the Titans when he refused to even call it a drop. But it’s worth noting that when he was explaining how impressed he is with Jay Cutler this week, he said, ‘‘I mean, the ball I dropped in Tennessee, he whipped that thing in between how many people? I was surprised it got through all that.’’
‘‘The ball I dropped in Tennessee.’’ I call that progress.
I don’t think Williams has the accountability issues others have tagged him with. In fact, when Williams fumbled after making a catch against the Bears last year after Charles Tillman snuck up on him as he struggled for yards, Williams couldn’t have been more sincerely accountable. I think I stepped back to make sure I wasn’t talking to Sam Hurd or somebody else.
‘‘My fumble’s on me,’’ Williams said. ‘‘Whether it was forward progress [being stopped] or not, it doesn’t matter. I should have held onto the ball.
‘‘The first thing we talked about was Tillman. I know him from Detroit — he’s going to get the ball out. I tried to hold onto that thing. I was trying to keep my legs pumping and hopefully the ref would blow the whistle. Unfortunately he didn’t. I have to hold onto the ball. That’s my fault.’’
I asked him how much credit the Bears deserved for the victory.
‘‘Your hat’s off to them. They created three turnovers,’’ he said. ‘‘If the defense can create three turnovers, they’ve done their job. And their offense moved the ball, with Mike Martz back there and Cutler at the helm. They did a good job. My hat’s off to them. But we have to be better with the ball.’’
I don’t know Williams well enough to know how he’ll respond to success or failure. This is a tough town to play in. He’s in a tough spot trying to fit into an offense that has a lot to prove. And all eyes are on him. The Bears should be held to a high standard. But let’s not run Roy Williams out of town until he’s had a chance to prove us wrong.